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EPA 600 R 12 572,December 2012 Revised,Rare Earth Elements A Review of Production. Processing Recycling and Associated,Environmental Issues. Engineering Technical Support Center,Land Remediation and Pollution Control Division. National Risk Management Research Laboratory,Office of Research and Development. Cincinnati OH, The U S Environmental Protection Agency EPA is charged by Congress with.
protecting the Nation s land air and water resources Under a mandate of national. environmental laws the Agency strives to formulate and implement actions. leading to a compatible balance between human activities and the ability of natural. systems to support and nurture life To meet this mandate EPA s research program. is providing data and technical support for solving environmental problems today. and building a science knowledge base necessary to manage our ecological. resources wisely understand how pollutants affect our health and prevent or. reduce environmental risks in the future, The National Risk Management Research Laboratory NRMRL is the Agency s. center for investigation of technological and management approaches for. preventing and reducing risks from pollution that threaten human health and the. environment The focus of the Laboratory s research program is on methods and. their cost effectiveness for prevention and control of pollution to air land water. and subsurface resources protection of water quality in public water systems. remediation of contaminated sites sediments and ground water prevention and. control of indoor air pollution and restoration of ecosystems NRMRL collaborates. with both public and private sector partners to foster technologies that reduce the cost. of compliance and to anticipate emerging problems NRMRL s research provides. solutions to environmental problems by developing and promoting technologies that. protect and improve the environment advancing scientific and engineering. information to support regulatory and policy decisions and providing the technical. support and information transfer to ensure implementation of environmental. regulations and strategies at the national state and community levels. Rare earth elements REEs are a group of 15 chemical elements in the periodic. table specifically the lanthanides Two other elements scandium and yttrium have. a similar physiochemistry to the lanthanides are commonly found in the same. mineral assemblages and are often referred to as REEs Although relatively. abundant in the earth s crust they rarely occur in concentrated forms making them. economically challenging to obtain These elements comprise critical components. of many of our modern day technological devices and everyday electronics REE. demand in the United States is projected to increase given global demand for green. and sustainable products in energy military and manufacturing uses China has. been providing 95 of REEs worldwide but the United States is increasing its. interest in exploring and mining REEs, Mining in the natural environment comprises the majority of acquisition of REEs. and like most mining operations results in a large quantity greater than 90. percent of excess and un used materials At present there is no formal EPA or. national strategy existing for managing resource development and mitigation of. impacts during the acquisition use and disposal of REEs The purpose of this. document has been to compile current information to develop a strategy for. managing REE resources and reducing potential environmental impacts Though. the vast majority of information in this report is current as noted in this report. mining and extraction of REEs is dynamic For example we recognize global. market prices for REE s have declined since mid 2011 when this report was. completed Therefore some details regarding who is producing what and where may. have changed between the time when 1 data collection as part of the literature. search for this report was completed in July 2011 and 2 the report s contract was. completed in September 2011 and 3 its subsequent publication in 2012. This document provides a description of the many environmental facets of the rare. earth mining and disposal issues and explains the need for a national strategy for. the continued supply of required REEs in future technological development. nationally and internationally and for the reuse of these materials versus disposal. in landfills,Cynthia Sonich Mullin Director,National Risk Management Research Laboratory. Rare earth elements REEs are a group of 15 chemical elements in the periodic. table specifically the lanthanides Two other elements scandium and yttrium have. a similar physiochemistry to the lanthanides are commonly found in the same. mineral assemblages and are often referred to as REEs REEs have not been. mined in the United States for about 20 years and prior to that time the amount of. mining was minimal compared to coal and hard rock mining The increased use of. REEs in magnets modern electronics and in a variety of commercial products has. led to a shortage of REEs for production purposes Currently REEs are being. disposed in large quantities rather than being recovered and reused. The purpose of this report is to serve as a technical information resource to policy. makers and other stakeholders who are concerned with the potential environmental. and health effects and impacts that can be identified across the REE supply chain. RTI conducted a search of the technical literature and other Internet sources related. to each segment of the supply chain including recent initiatives of U S. government agencies that document issues associated with REE production. processing manufacturing end uses recycling and health ecological effects. Information contained in this report also draws upon past domestic and. international experience as appropriate, Compared to coal and other hardrock mining the scope of REE mining has always. been very small both in the U S and globally No major REE mining operations. have been conducted in the U S since 1995 Mining and processing activities have. the potential to create a number of environmental risks to human health and the. environment The severity of these risks is highly variable between mine and mine. plant operations The contaminants of concern will vary depending on the REE. mineral ore the toxicity of the contaminants from the waste rock ore stockpiles. and process waste streams The mobility of contaminants will be controlled by the. characteristics of the geologic hydrologic and hydrogeologic environments where. the mine is located along with the characteristics of the mining process and waste. handling methods,Acknowledgements, David J Reisman retired Director of the Office of Research and Development.
ORD Engineering Technical Support Center ETSC and Robert J Weber of the. EPA ORD Office of Science Policy OSP served as co principal investigators on. this project They would like to acknowledge the exemplary contribution from the. RTI International team led by Coleen Northeim and consisting of Scott Guthrie. James Cunningham and Susan Wolf Without their assistance this document. probably would not have been developed The draft and final versions of this. document were prepared under the ORD STREAMS contract EP C 05 060 Task. Throughout the development of the document monthly teleconference calls took. place among members of the REE work group and was comprised of the following. individuals who gratefully gave their time and expertise voluntarily Dr Michael. McKittrick of ORD National Center for Environmental Research NCER Dr. Robert Seal of the U S Geological Survey Dr David Drake of EPA Region 7 and. Kathleen Graham of ORD OSP in EPA Region 8 played a key role in developing. this issue over less than a year Additionally special thanks go out to Jim Sims and. Scott Honan of MolyCorp Inc for providing input on their current REE mining. and resource recovery processes We would also like to acknowledge the reviews. and constructive comments provided by Karen Pollard and William Schoenborn of. the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Dr Anne Riederer of the. ORD Assistant Administrator s office Diana Bless ORD and Holly Elwood of. the Office of Pesticide Programs and Toxic Substances Finally we would also like. to thank our current and former immediate management Albert Venosa and. Randy Parker in EPA ORD NRMRL Maggie LaVay of EPA ORD OSP Nigel. Fields formerly of EPA ORD OSP now with DOI NPS and Gene Gunn and Dr. David Drake in EPA Region 7 for their support of our work. Table of Contents,List of Acronyms xi,1 Introduction 1 1. 1 1 Background 1 1,1 2 Report Organization 1 1,2 Introduction to Rare Earth Elements 2 1. 2 1 Abundance of REEs in Earth s Crust 2 1,2 2 Geologic Environments of REEs 2 3. 2 3 Applications of REEs 2 6,2 4 REE Global Economic Supply and Demand 2 7. 3 Life Cycle Stages of Rare Earth Mineral Mines 3 1. 3 1 Active REE Mining 3 2,3 2 REE Ores 3 3,3 3 Mining Permitting and Life Cycle 3 4.
3 3 1 Permitting Requirements for New Rare Earth Mines 3 4. 3 3 2 Mining Life Cycle 3 5,3 4 Characteristics of Mining Waste Sources 3 19. 3 4 1 Soil Storage Piles 3 20,3 4 2 Overburden 3 20. 3 4 3 Ore and Subeconomic Ore Storage 3 20,3 4 4 Waste Rock 3 21. 4 Resource Processing 4 1,4 1 Bevill Amendment 4 4. 4 2 Beneficiation Processes 4 4,4 2 1 Bastnasite Beneficiation 4 5.
4 2 2 Monazite Xenotime Beneficiation 4 5,4 3 Extraction Processes 4 5. 4 3 1 Bastnasite Extraction 4 6,4 3 2 Monazite Xenotime Extraction 4 7. 4 3 3 Tailings Extraction 4 7,4 4 Reduction Processes 4 7. 4 5 Potential Environmental Impacts 4 7,4 5 1 China Legacy 4 8. 4 5 2 United States Legacy 4 8, 5 Rare Earth Element Recovery Alternative Material Use 5 1.
5 1 Introduction 5 1,5 2 Recycle Processing Steps 5 3. 5 2 1 Collection 5 5,5 2 2 Dismantling Preprocessing 5 5. 5 2 3 Processing 5 7,5 3 Commercial REE Recycling Applications 5 8. 5 4 Environmental Implications of Recycling REEs 5 10. 5 5 Research on Alternatives to REEs 5 10, 5 6 Emerging Policies Programs to Support REE Recycling 5 11. 6 Potential Human Health and Ecological Risks of Production Processing and Recycling of. 6 1 Generalized Conceptual Site Model for Environmental Risk from a REE Mine and. Mineral Processing Plant 6 2,6 1 1 Contaminant Release and Transport 6 6.
6 1 2 EPA Studies of Hardrock Mine Environmental Risks 6 10. 6 2 Pathway and Exposure Scenarios for REE Recycling 6 14. 6 3 Documented Human Health and Ecological Effects from Exposure to REE 6 15. 7 Summary Key Findings from Literature Review and Potential Next Steps 7 1. 7 1 Summary 7 1,7 2 Key Findings 7 2,7 3 Suggested Next Steps 7 3. 8 References 8 1,Appendices,A Selected Chemical Properties of REEs. B Locations of REE Producing Mines and REE Containing Mineral Deposits in the U S. C Process Flow Diagrams for Extraction and Processing Operations. List of Figures, 2 1 Periodic table of the elements showing the division between LREES and HREES. Schuler et al 2011 2 3, 2 2 Map showing occurrences of REEs by rock type adapted from multiple sources see. Appendix B 2 5, 2 3 In use stocks of selected REEs by specific application or industry in gigagrams Du and.
Graedel 2011 2 7, 2 4 Global production of rare earth oxides Du and Graedel 2011 2 8. 3 1 Molycorp Minerals rare earth mine Mountain Pass California 3 3. 3 2 Typical time frame for a mine project 3 12, 3 3 Aerial image of Pea Ridge magnetite mine Missouri 3 16. 3 4 Conventional hardrock deposit mining process and wastes emissions 3 22. 3 5 Conventional placer deposit processing and wastes emissions 3 22. 4 1 Conventional placer deposit resource processing and potential wastes emissions 4 2. 4 2 Conventional hardrock resource processing and potential wastes emissions 4 3. 4 3 Anticipated Molycorp Mountain Pass mine water reclamation process and potential. waste emissions 4 10, 5 1 Representative rare earth oxide prices from 2007 2010 The 2007 2010 figures are. fourth quarter Q4 average prices The 2011 numbers represent spot prices on. February 25 5 2,5 2 REE recycling steps and waste emissions 5 4. 5 3 Left Dismantling table with pneumatic tools used for manual dismantling of hard disks. Right Components resulting from the process and including REE containing magnets. upper right corner Schluep et al 2009 5 6, 6 1 Generic above ground hardrock mine conceptual site model and exposure pathways U S.
EPA 2009a 6 5, 6 2 Sources of potential human exposures resulting from mining operations U S EPA. ORCR 2010 6 11, 6 3 Sources of potential exposures of current and future ecological receptors resulting from. mining operations U S EPA OCRC 2010 6 12, 6 4 Low tech gold recycling in Bangalore India Schluep et al 2009 6 14. List of Tables, 2 1 Abundance of Elements in the Earth s Crust Wedepohl 1995 2 2. 2 2 Rare Earth Elements Their Applications and Potential Supply Issues for Clean Energy. Technologies 2 6, 2 3 Distribution of REEs by End Use in 2008 U S DOI USGS 2010 2 7.
2 4 Current Activities at Selected Potential U S REE Mines 2 9. 3 1 Numbers of Existing Mines by State Where Potential REE Resources Have Been. Reported see Appendix B for References 3 18, 4 1 Rare earth extraction methods adapted from Meyer and Bras 2011 4 6. 4 2 Rare Earth Processing Waste Streams and Their Hazardous Waste Potential U S EPA. 5 1 Recycling Operations Technologies Utilized Current Status and Benefits 5 8. 6 1 Summary of pollutants impacted environmental media emission sources and activity. associated with REE mining processing and recycling 6 2. 6 2 Frequency of Various Types of Impacts from CERCLA Sites U S EPA 1995 6 13. 6 3 REEs and Available RfCs and RfDs 6 17, 6 4 Selected Toxicity and Epidemiology Findings for Rare Earth Elements 6 17. 6 5 Selected Biomonitoring Findings for Rare Earth Elements 6 22. 6 6 Selected Ecotoxicity Findings for Rare Earth Elements 6 25. This page intentionally left blank,Rare Earth Elements Review List of Acronyms. List of Acronyms,AMD acidic or alkaline mine drainage. ARD acid rock drainage,BLM Bureau of Land Management.
CLERCA Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act. CO2 carbon dioxide,CR3 Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling. CREI Colorado Rare Earths Incorporated,CSM Conceptual Site Model. DoD U S Department of Defense,DOE U S Department of Energy. EPA U S Environmental Protection Agency,EIS environmental impact statement. ES environmental study,EU European Union,HCl hydrochloric acid.
ISL in situ leach,HREE heavy rare earth element,LCD liquid crystal display. LREE light rare earth element,MIW mining influenced water. NaOH sodium hydroxide, NEDO New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. NEPA National Environmental Policy Act,NIMS National Institute for Material Science. NMD neutral mine drainage,NORM naturally occurring radioactive material.
ORD Office of Research and Development,PCB polychlorinated biphenyl. PFD neutral mine drainage,RCRA Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. REACT Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies. REE rare earth element,REM rare earth metal,Rare Earth Elements Review List of Acronyms. REO rare earth oxide, RESTART Act Rare Earths Supply Chain Technology and Resources Transformation Act of 2010. RO reverse osmosis,RTI RTI International,TDS total dissolved solids.
TENORM technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material. UN United Nations,UNEP United Nations Environment Programme. USGS U S Geological Survey,VOC volatile organic compounds. Rare Earth Elements Review Section 1 Introduction,1 Introduction. 1 1 Background, Rare earth elements REEs are a group of 15 chemical elements in the periodic table specifically the. lanthanides Two other elements scandium and yttrium have a similar physiochemistry to the. lanthanides are commonly found in the same mineral assemblages and are often referred to as REEs. Although relatively abundant in the earth s crust REEs rarely occur in concentrated forms making them. economically challenging to obtain These elements constitute critical components of many important. technologies and products such as hybrid vehicles wind turbines and cell phones Given this global. demand for green and sustainable products in energy military and manufacturing industries REE. demand in the United States and throughout the world is projected to increase. In recent years China has been providing 95 to 97 percent of REEs worldwide Because China has. demonstrated its ability to control and limit REE exports it is crucial that the United States expand its. ability to obtain REE resources Mining in the natural environment is the primary means of REE. acquisition however it results in a large quantity greater than 90 percent of excess and unused materials. and other environmental impacts If the United States is to ensure a continuous supply of REEs. responsible mining practices will need to be developed and enhanced Additionally effective recycling. recovery and reuse of spent consumer and industrial products may reduce the need to develop new. mineral resource areas, To obtain up to date information on the environmental aspects and potential impacts of REE mining.
recovery recycling and reuse the U S Environmental Protection Agency EPA Office of Research and. Development s ORD s Engineering Technical Support Center contracted with RTI International RTI. to conduct a literature review and to develop this report. The purpose of this report is to serve as a technical information resource to policy makers and other. stakeholders who are concerned with the potential environmental and health effects and impacts that can. be identified across the REE supply chain This document is not a life cycle assessment or a risk. assessment However it does to the extent possible based on anticipated proposed or past practices. attempt to identify environmental compartments i e aquatic environment terrestrial environment and. air that may be at risk and the corresponding environmental loads e g raw material consumption air. emissions water discharges wastes when that information is available in the literature or an association. can be made with anticipated current and past practices. RTI conducted a search of the technical literature and other Internet sources related to each segment of. the supply chain including recent initiatives of U S government agencies i e U S Geological Survey. USGS U S Department of Energy DOE and the EPA that document issues associated with REE. production processing manufacturing end uses recycling and health ecological effects Information. contained in this report also draws upon past domestic and international experience United Nations. Environment Programme UNEP as appropriate,1 2 Report Organization. This report is organized into eight sections and appendices as follows. Section 1 provides the overall background for the project. Section 2 provides general background information on REEs including information on their uses. their reserves in the United States and their current supplies and demand worldwide. Section 3 provides information on REE mining operations and potential environmental impacts. Rare Earth Elements Review Section 1 Introduction, Section 4 focuses on beneficiation and processing along with associated environmental impacts. and includes information related to the Molycorp Minerals mine in Mountain Pass California. which is scheduled to resume full scale production in 2012. Section 5 summarizes the steps associated with REE recycling and provides information on the. status of commercial recycling processes This section also includes information on potential. alternatives to REEs and a summary of new policies and programs that will impact future. Section 6 summarizes information from the literature on health and environmental issues. associated with REEs, Section 7 presents a summary of the report information a list of key findings and recommended. next steps,Section 8 provides a reference list, Appendix A describes selected chemical properties of REEs Appendix B provides a table with. locations of REE producing mines and REE containing mineral deposits in the United States and. Appendix C presents process flow diagrams of REE extraction and processing operations. This report is envisioned as a starting point for the ORD to investigate potential environmental and health. issues concerning the production processing recycling recovery and life cycle of REEs This report is. an overview intended to set the framework for these issues and should not be viewed as a comprehensive. document on REEs and the mining of those materials. Rare Earth Elements Review Section 2 Introduction to Rare Earth Elements. 2 Introduction to Rare Earth Elements, For the purposes of this report the series of 15 lanthanide metals plus scandium and yttrium have been.
designated as REEs however it should be noted that other elements also are sometimes referred to as REEs. Rare earth oxides REOs and rare earth metals REMs While these elements are widely dispersed and. generally common in nature minable concentrations of REEs are less common than for most other metal ores. Rare earths have become important in modern commercial and industrial processing and products Metallurgical. processing alloying and electronics applications e g cell phones computer components electric motors. specialty glass and lenses represent the most significant uses of REEs In addition due to the dependence on. several of these elements for military applications REEs are considered a national strategic resource Analysis of. the future supply and demand for each of the REEs indicates that by 2014 global demand could exceed 200 000. tons per year which would exceed current production by over 75 000 tons per year It is reported that if the new. mines under development are able to meet their projected production levels world wide demand for REEs will be. met from these new sources, The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry an organization devoted to maintaining. international consistency for chemical nomenclature has identified the15 transition metals from the. periodic table of the elements with atomic numbers 57 lanthanum through 71 lutetium as lanthanides. or lanthanoids These 15 elements share common physiochemical properties and are listed below. Lanthanum 57La Samarium 62Sm Holmium 67Ho,Cerium 58Ce Europium 63Eu Erbium 68Er. Praseodymium 59Pr Gadolinium 64Gd Thulium 69Tm,Neodymium 60Nd Terbium 65Tb Ytterbium 70Yb. Promethium 61Pm Dysprosium 66Dy Lutetium 71Lu, Due to their similar physiochemistry these lanthanides often occur together as elemental constituents of. their host minerals Two other metals commonly found in association with lanthanides in the same. mineral assemblages are the following,Scandium 21Sc.
Yttrium 39Y, These two metals also have physiochemical characteristics that are very similar to the lanthanides. 2 1 Abundance of REEs in Earth s Crust, Together the lanthanides yttrium and scandium are commonly referred to as REEs or REMs although. this is a misnomer since most of the REEs are common mineral constituents as compared with other metal. elements The term rare is a carryover from metallurgical chemists from around the 1940s Gupta and. Krishnamurthy 2004 The metallurgical processes needed to isolate the individual metal species are. complex and early technology prevented commodity level production As a result lanthanide metals or. metal oxides i e REOs were difficult to obtain and thus are considered rare The abundance of REEs in. the earth s crust relative to other common metals is presented in Table 2 1 these abundances from. Wedephol 1995 are only one of several interpretations but those presented here are generally. representative As shown in the comparison the content of lanthanides relative to other REEs in rock.

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